“I stayed up last night reading William Blake poems to my dying cat” sounds like the stuff of satire, a dig at the pseudo-intellectual affectations of the hipster class.
Yet it’s the truth, though the cause of it was incidentally pedestrian.
Lil Baby Setzer has hung in there longer than we’d anticipated upon hearing her diagnosis of chronic kidney failure. Her stocky resilience and the suddenness of the illness have resulted in a slow, steady fade over the past two weeks.
She’s near the end of it now. Her connections to this world grow weaker by the moment, but somehow I’ve remained her one fixed beacon. My presence, my voice, my touch are the only things that can still rouse her to attentiveness, eliciting barely audible purrs and glimpses of the adoration she has inexplicably held for me all these years.
“It’s important you spent time with her,” said Maura, and so I have. I’ve been sitting next to her in the space we’ve set up for her in the spare bedroom, stroking her chin, scratching her belly, and telling her what a great companion she has been.
On the opposite wall is a bookshelf filled with various tomes of personal significance we’ve accumulated over the ages. Maura curated it during Big Clean Up, and I’ve never really bothered to look closely at it. Last night, I noticed my Penguin collection of William Blake’s poetry was in there, so I pulled it from the shelf.
The book was an early gift from Maura from the early days of our relationship. Her epigraph references events now lost from memory, but mentioned how she knew I enjoyed Blake’s poetry.
This was true. Blake loomed large during my early undergrad days when I ran high on epic self-mythologizing and bullshit theories of cosmic importance. Blake had been both a poet and and artist, and I fancied myself the same. Revelation and prophecy, mysticism and spiritual revolution, innocence and experience — his work was tailor-made for my muddled mindset. I hand-painted the entirety of “London” on the sleeve of my punk jacket and committed many other poems and passages of his to memory.
“Ancient times,” indeed, and long since fallen by the wayside. I picked up the book again for nostalgia’s sake, but I could feel the old fire come back to me as I flipped though its pages. I began reading favorite selections and, knowing that Setz found comfort in my voice, began reading them aloud to her.
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.
Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.
After a while, she nodded off and I put the book back on the shelf. I stroked her fur and turned in for the night myself.